Push to Progress Solutions for Compostable Packaging

New Zealand’s foremost packaging industry group is tackling one of the sector’s most pressing issues as it works to develop a use-case for compostable packaging.

The Packaging Forum’s Compostable Packaging Technical Advisory Group launched a consultation document at the beginning of the month during a webinar led by the group’s project manager Kim Renshaw and is calling on industry to give feedback.

“Our work has identified there are hundreds of millions of units in the market every year which could be composted with their food residue to produce a valuable soil additive. If compostable packaging and food waste go to landfill it creates harmful greenhouse gasses. We know there is a lack of collection infrastructure connecting to composters, which needs to be resolved,” said Renshaw.

She outlined what the group aims to achieve, and the importance of industry being involved.

“It’s crucial we get members of the compostable packaging supply chain to contribute their insights and knowledge so we can develop the best use-case for New Zealand."

The group’s work will address key requirements for viable and environmentally sound compostable packaging use. These include a ‘decision-making tree’ for what the packaging is used for, the need for a labelling system, official NZ standard for the compostability of packaging, increased processing infrastructure and a nationally available collections infrastructure.

The use-case will help establish best practice guidelines and inform any future Government regulation. The group has drawn on industry input as well as international guidelines for its work.

“Compostable packaging has the potential to have a hugely positive impact, but it has to be done in such a way that we don’t create unintended negative consequences,” continued Renshaw.

“That’s why it’s so important that those in the supply chain engage in this process – from brands of all sizes to manufacturers, collectors and composters.”

Compostable packaging is sometimes viewed as a ‘silver bullet’, but without an agreed use-case, standards, labelling and end-of-life solutions being in place, they can be environmentally damaging.

“Compostable packaging needs to be properly defined and have a clear path from manufacturer to end-of-life so it doesn’t end up in landfill, or contaminate commercial compost or plastic recycling streams.”

Gavin Fong, who is the Managing Director at PlusPac Packaging Ltd, a member of the Compostable Packaging Technical Advisory Group and sits on the Packaging Forum Board, said the group’s work comes off the back of a survey of stakeholders in February.

“That survey identified a clear and urgent need to work towards solutions for this packaging type which are acceptable to everyone in the supply chain,” said Fong. The survey revealed between those surveyed had completed over 100 compostable packaging projects in the last five years, with another 81 in progress and 85 more planned.

“Despite this little progress has been made to developing viable end-of-life solutions at scale. It’s time for all of the industry to pull together and work on this."

The group’s consultation is open until 30 June. The document is available on the Packaging Forum Website.